A Comfortable Couch

Friday, December 31, 2004

We are a stingy nation?

I just read a post by an American about the Tsunami tragedy and how we are a stingy nation. I'm not going to link to it because I don't think it deserves attention, but this kind of stuff really pisses me off and is completely off base. Last year Americans privately gave over $241 billion to charitable causes, and at least $34 billion of that goes to foreign countries. $18 billion was given by individuals for developing countries. And that's not the politically corrupt bullshit that passes for most government aid, particularly when the UN is involved. How many billions did France, Russia and Saddam siphon off of the Food for Oil program? At least $10 billion and the figure is still growing.

I guess it's not enough to give privately, you must be taxed and then have that money given away by oh-so-honest politicians. Only then does it count?

Yes, please please please make a cash donation, whatever you can afford. Then tell people what you did, you need not say how much but set a visible example. When it comes to giving peer pressure is a good thing.


Anonymous said...

What is the source of those figures you cite?

My trouble with the $35 million pledged, aside from its stinginess, is what it says about the priorities of this presidency. Moveon.org says that $35 million represents just seven hours of what this nation is spending on the Iraq war.

7:18 PMlink  
Damien said...

The figures come from here:

The post I was bitching about is here:
The poster was complaining about Americans reluctance to open their wallets, which is total BS. And everywhere else I see people blast US giving and only count government giving when citing aid statistics.

Also, in this case the offical US government pledge total is now at $350 million, and I bet it will rise considerably more. But I'm sure it will be spent in ways that get the most political milage, rather than where its most needed.

7:35 PMlink  
Anonymous said...

And while you're at it, it'd be nice if people would stop calling Bill Gates "evil", when he's already donated more money (to similar causes as the tsunami relief funds) than any encouragement to do so from all blogs combined so far- and for the foreseeable future. Casually slandering Bill Gates as "evil" in light of this fact undermines our appreciation for the basic/important things in life. It's like Pat Tillman's coach said about the tendancy to overuse terms on the football field like "sacrifice" and "bravery".

-David Boudreau

1:02 AMlink  
David Pitkin said...

By whose numbers are even private donations generous?

In 2002 the US privately gave $0.05 per person per day compared to what I would call a generous $0.24 per person per day in Norway, even more so since Norway’s taxes and government giving are even way higher than ours.

The only ranking where we even show up in the middle of the pack is if you count our immigration policies and free trade.

The fact that we have now increased our giving to ten times what it was when these people made these statements is very telling as well.

1:30 PMlink  
Damien said...

I'd like to see where you got those numbers from. By my calculations, that means Americans gave only $5.5 billion, which is less than 3% of the amount I'm finding for total private charitable giving.

1:55 PMlink  
David Pitkin said...

I found this article with the 2002 numbers: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-generous31dec31,0,379722.story?coll=la-home-headlines

They have posted more recent rankings:

I wrote a paper about the disparity between Europe and the US "aid" compared to our both of our insance domestic farm subsidies so I was familar with the 2002 numbers.

5:33 PMlink  
Damien said...

For the article you cite, private charitable giving numbers quoted are of grants by NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) that go through the Paris DAC (Development Assistance Committee) CRS (Credit Reporting System), which it found to be $5.5 billion (the number you are quoting I believe).

And how much of this data actually reflects the true overseas giving by Americans, as opposed to what only goes through the DAC CRS? Apparently there is a big discrepency, as I can show you data that demolishes those numbers.

In other words, you can make the numbers say just about anything if you pull the data from the right places and massage it correctly. If I want to make the US look astonishingly good compared to the rest of world, then just pull the data from sources that index US giving more thoroughly. I avoid comparing US giving to other countries for precisely this reason, you simply can't compare the data if it doesn't exist equally across all countries.

Also, comparing one of the per-capita richest countries in the EU that is 1.5% the total population size of the US is just plain ridiculous. A better comparison would be to compare Norway to a similarly sized rich region of the country, like Connecticut.

7:52 PMlink  
David Pitkin said...

I think you might want to look at the data a little more. There are detailed spreadsheets showing how the numbers are adjusted which is probably the difference you seek between the "blow out of the water" numbers you talk about and the more modest adjusted amounts from CDG.

I do agree its all numbers and statistics and tells a biased story but I think the isolationist history and the oceans between us and the ROW contribute greatly to our giving level. Now if we spin our spending in Iraq as some sort of aid we might get somewhere (just kidding).

8:46 PMlink  
Damien said...

Actually that is the pre-adjusted number. The post-adjusted number is $980 million. I didn't even mention the study because the article doesn't seem to be using the study's adjusted numbers.

11:04 PMlink  
Anonymous said...

America is a powerful positive force in the world. Consider we are a little less than 5 percent of the world's population and give something like a third of World Aid. Oh yea, we also pay 1/4 of the UN's budget.

Those numbers cited do not even count manpower or use of our military equipment for aid.

Larry Elder has some good figures.

7:34 AMlink  

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